Saturday, 29 December 2012

Status Quo and Christmas.

The band, not the situation.

We drove up to freezing Blackpool to see them and they were pretty good - not as good as I expected, but good. I appeared to be the only one there that had never seen them before as die hard followers of the group had seen them a number of times. Or so I learnt in the Ladie's. We rocked all over the world as one man stood throughout the concert wearing a mac, scarf and Trilby, moving from side to side when the mood took him. There is something rather eccentric about the British. That may be it.

On 22 December we loaded up the car before setting off for the long drive down to Devon to send a few days with the Parental Unit, Tatiana, her partner Thomy and Todd. Before leaving I managed to do something to my back and as I pulled back the curtains in the living room I saw that I have rising damp and mold growing everywhere. There was no time to do much about anything so I folded myself delicately into the car, sniffed and we were off, windscreen wipers frantically wiping away the rain drops. And it rained all the way to Devon. Non-stop.

The news on the radio was not very comforting as the Young Ones were coming over from Brussels that day too and although the Eurostar was working (yes, this Christmas the Eurostar was on time and running), trains from Paddington to Exeter-St-David's were not. They were stranded at Taunton so my dad had to run up and get them. In the car.

Christmas was fine and jolly - we were told not to spend more than £10 on one another which would have been fine had my father told me that in November when I was being organised and ordering all my presents before a mad rush - and for slightly more than £10. Oh well. I would never have managed to get my mother, who wanted linen handkerchiefs, more than one had I stuck to the £10 - even John Lewis don't sell them. John Lewis. And they sell EVERYTHING.

Richard got me a Wacom tablet so I shall have to pick up on the tutorial and carry on learning what I can do on it before trying to put doodles up here. He also got me some nail varnish although that arrived while we were away.

It was lovely catching up with Todd who I haven't seen since August 2011 - and it is always good to see Tatiana and Thomy. I greatly missed Coralie, though, and have no idea when I shall next see her.

The journey back was awful for us all. The Young Ones had to get up at 5am to get the train from Tiveton (now that they were running from there) but my dad ended up driving them to Heathrow as there were no trains at all. They missed their Eurostar but managed to get the next one and Tatiana was only slightly late to work. Richard and I hit traffic at Bristol and Birmingham so it was a long journey home for us - and we got home to a very cold house, too. The heating had packed up and it is only today that we have heating and hot water again. The bill will be sent shortly, too.

I was turned down for another job which I'm rather upset about but let's hope that 2013 is a better year. I'm going to be 50, Coralie and her partner are going to Vietnam for 7 months and then spend 2 months travelling so who knows what else to expect.

A knees up to celebrate my 50th in Crewe, probably.

All two of us.

Friday, 2 November 2012

My Shed

My shed by zoeinbrussels
My shed, a photo by zoeinbrussels on Flickr.


I own a Shed.

Ye Gads, it's that time of the year again.

It's cold, it's wet, it's dark. And then you go outside and it's warmer, drier and the sun is shining. It's called Winter. Getting up in the morning isn't quite so bleak - yet, but the days come to an end very quickly. Around 5-5.30pm. You can't really call that a day, can you?


The Parental Unit visited in April. It was good. What was better was that they brought flowers and left 6 bottles of wine. One must not complain. They got on with Richard very well - in fact, my dad and Richard really hit it off as they discussed their hernias and respective various operations over a rather good steak and ale pie. Richard's speciality.

And since then, I received a Shed. Oh yes. Mum and Dad bought me a Shed. Isn't that just lovely. A Shed. I'm just getting used to the word. Shed. It's half empty - or half full, but nevertheless, I own a Shed. No garage here, so I need a Shed. It's at the end of my long and horribly narrow garden and most of the things that should be in it are at this end of the garden, in the out-house. Or outside loo. It's time to migrate, oh yee empty boxes, lawnmower, et al.

A good thing about Crewe:

it's not far from places that do gigs.

So we're going to see The Quo next month. Yay, get us. Down, down, getting down wiv da kidz, like, innit? Or more like going down, down with the elderly ones two steps away from a nursing home. That's us. Kool.

We saw Mark Radcliffe in Nantwich in October during the 'Words and Music' week. Radcliffe was very amusing but I thought the small audience was a bit dull and didn't integrate with him enough - so I pointed out that 'Richard from Crewe' was here when asked if anybody came from anywhere other than Nantwich. Richard was mortified, got picked on all evening and I, "his controlling partner" (too bloody right, Mark) found it even funnier. It was an excellent evening. Richard didn't speak to me for a week after that.


Not until we went to see Thea Gilmore several nights later. Thea is a great artist - noted by most of non-Gilmore fans for her song 'London' which was sung throughout the Olympics and has probably paid off her pension nicely in Royalties. Despite having a stinking cold, she, her husband, son, Fluff, Tracey and Alan were great and I was very impressed by Thea's voice.

It's now November. I'm not growing a moustache or anything weird. Still looking for jobs - had a reject this week, the pain, and am looking forward to Christmas for once. It's also cold.

But I may have mentioned that.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

World Book Night Seen Through A Blur.

I forgot that September happened - admittedly, it wasn't a very exciting month and not much happened. And if it did, I've already forgotten. But I promised Viviane and Pat to blog about World Book Night which happened years ago on April 23, Bill Shakespear's birthday.

I'd heard about it on Steve Wright's show (although it could have been Simon Mayo - the radio programmes seem to run into each other when you're having fun) when Andrea Levy came in to talk about her book 'Small Island' which was one of the many books that got distributed on WBN 2012.

What happens?

Well, if you're interested, you sign up and register to be a giver of books. You see the list of books that are going to be given away that year and if you are successful, receive 24 copies of the book that you'd like to give away to people who don't read much. A bit like God-bothering, really, only harder. Guessing who doesn't and who does read is not that easy in many places but in Crewe it is a cross between the two. When I tried to entice people I would either get a confused reply "Polish" or "I have a Kindle." Show-offs who do not appreciate the workmanship that goes into creating a book. I've never understood how people can dismiss that lovely feeling of turning over a page with preference to scrolling down.

Anyway, still feeling pretty new to the country I decided to settle for a pub - the Belgian pub, 'Hops' and distribute my books from there over a beer or too many. I managed to slur my way through the evening and wasn't really aware of who I gave books to in the end. I just remember that the 24th book went to the lovely man in the kebab shop near home as we stopped to pick up some chips to soak up some of the alcohol.

He really appeared to appreciate the book but that was seen through beer goggles.

His chips were bloody good though.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Oh Bloody Hell - Where did the Time Go?

It's been so long since I last posted that I almost forgot how to create a post. It wasn't until I realised that I had to sign in first that I managed to get anywhere and now it's all changed. Blogger has made everything look new and sparkly but to old people such as myself, this is really quite a nuisance. I'm sure that I'll cope.

In a manner.


1. The Parental Unit came and went.
2. I've been volunteering madly at Oxfam which is quite good fun and obviously rules out the question of being employed. Still looking.
3. I've had a couple of interviews for jobs, including at a Catholic school. Ho hum.
4. Tatiana and her boyfriend visited.
5. Coralie and her boyfriend then visited.
6. Richard and I visited the Parental Unit. Mine, not his.
7. I took part in World Book Night.
8. Things happened - Olympic Torch went through Crewe! The Olympics happened. Things in the garden happened. Sales on eBay happened. My fractured wrist was a true happening.

If there is anything on that list that you want to read about in particular, do say. Otherwise another year may pass before I let you know of what's going on - if anything - and just to let you know that I am alive.

One thing that never happened: bloody summer.

Friday, 27 April 2012

How to try and break your wrist.

There are many ways to break a bone in your body. So far, I broke a bone in one of my fingers by being thrown on the floor by a rather unpleasant man many moons ago. The finger is still broken. When I was 17, I was involved in a car crash and ended up with a broken clavicle. That is still out of place. In December 2010, I stubbed my toe when falling up the stairs and broke it resulting having a cast from my toes to just under my knee for 7 weeks. It was very painful and extremely inconvenient as I couldn't put my foot down.

And 4 weeks ago I tried to get undressed but one leg got stuck in my jeans and as I was trying to peel them off I realised that I was slowly - or perhaps, rapidly - losing my balance. As I hopped around the bedroom trying to regain my balance it occurred to me that I was going to fall back. On my arse. I have a fear of damaging my back as it is already pretty fucked, and am even more afraid of damaging the titanium cage that is separating two vertebrae. So as my arse rapidly started to try and make contact with the rug I did the sensible thing and put out my hand. Flat. My wrist saved my arse from suffering any damage by taking on my full weight.

Well, it didn't hurt.


But slowly, the bruising started, as did the swelling but naturally, being the owner of my body, I know what is best.

It was nothing.

A week later, still in great pain, I mumbled to Richard that perhaps I should go to A&E where my wrist was xrayed, examined and almost put in plaster until a senior nurse suggested that just a removable splint was necessary for the time being as they couldn't tell whether or not I'd broken or fractured my wrist as it appeared to be a scaphoid fracture, and they only show up two weeks after the incident.

A week later I went back. Had an xray, but still nothing showed up. The nurse was worried about the bruising and pain and so arranged for me to see the hand specialist the following week.

I didn't see any hand specialist, just a doctor of some sort who happened to be working in the fracture clinic on that day. She thinks that I may have pulled some ligaments or something and so should have an MRI and continue to wear the splint for at least another four weeks.

The best outcome of this injury is that I can no longer carry heavy things in my left hand, cook, wash up or even hang clothes up properly, but to be honest, I would rather be able to do all those things as the pain is pretty dire.

So if you want to break your wrist, that is one way not to do it.

And of all the places that I have seen the most since I have moved here it has to be Leighton Hospital.

It's like a second home.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

It's infected.

Since 17 April, 2011 I appear to have accomplished quite a bit. It was a warm, sunny Sunday when I arrived at Richard's house with his parents, only to find that Richard looked a bit green and had, in fact, only just got home from A&E.

"I noticed blood on the bath mat after my shower this morning and my scar didn't look that healthy. Sharon took me to hospital again and the doctor said that it's infected so I am now following a course of antibiotics."

"Oh. Hi Sharon, I've heard a lot about you - thank you for looking after Richard so well."

Sharon had not only looked after Richard, but made the hotel booking for his parents for the night on my behalf as Richard was in hospital at the time. I think she also helped out with the storage people - but I can't be sure. Whatever, she was very helpful and I can't thank her enough.

That afternoon was spent putting all my belongings into storage - except Hermie, his indoor cage and outside run, a box of documents and a suitcase of clothes. Richard helped as much as he could and his dad and I did the rest with the help of a man from the storage place.

But since this day last year, I have....

1. Bought a house.
2. Decorated a house with a lot of help from Richard.
3. Signed on at the JobCentre.
4. Registered with the Belgian Embassy. (Only recently...)
5. Got back my belongings from the small storage room.
6. Been to Wales and neighbouring towns.
7. Been back to Ashford, Kent, twice.
8. Been on an Assertiveness Course.
9. Been on a photography course.
10.Become a qualified first-aider.
11.Started volunteering at Oxfam and 'Wishing Well Community Centre'.
12.Met an online (Facebook) Scrabble mate.
13.Been to France for a Family Reunion.
14.Had a visit from the Parental Unit.
15.Had a visit from Coralie and Tatiana.
16.Got to know Crewe a bit.
17.Seen John Cooper Clarke.
18.Possibly broken my wrist. (To be updated.)

I still haven't found a job, but when I get one I think things will start to fall into place, bit by bit.

We had pizza last year. Tonight we are celebrating our first year together with a pizza and a bottle of Cava.

Thank you for helping me get through the first year, Richard.

Here's to many more.

Monday, 16 April 2012


"Sharon's taking me to hospital - I really don't feel well."

"OK, Richard - good luck. Let me know what they say."


"Hi Zoe - they think it's appendicitis and I have to stay in."

"Oh dear. What about next week? I'm moving over to England."

"I'll get back to you - the doctor's here."

This time last year I had packed all my belongings into a van with the help of Coralie, several of her friends, Todd, a friend and Richard's brother-in-law, Mark. Although Richard was out of hospital now, he was in no fit state to drive all the way to Belgium and so his family got together and Mark, a professional lorry driver, was designated to get me.

When the van was packed I told Coralie what to do with any mail sent to the house, what to do with what was left in the house as there was still a lot of furniture in it which I thought Tatiana, who was doing her stage in a hotel in Madrid at the time, would like. We hugged and as I handed over my house keys to Coralie I gave my last few instructions in a broken voice, gently wiping the tears off Coralie's cheeks.

I climbed into the van with Hermie in a box and as we drove out of the clos I didn't dare look back - I decided to try and concentrate on talking to Mark and try and discover what on earth the vibrating noise was coming from one of my boxes. Coralie and friends passed us by just before we joined the Ring and honked loudly before we headed for Calais.

It was a lovely warm day and we arrived early but couldn't get on an earlier ferry so we sat in the van and people-watched, making jokes about who they were and what they did. The talking helped me from thinking about what I was doing and the wonderfully warm and unusually hot weather kept my spirits up. When we finally boarded the ferry, Mark bought me a coffee and we sat by a window, chatting and watching what had to be the flatted crossing that I had ever been on. As the English coastline came into view I felt vaguely excited and calmer than earlier in the day.

Hermie had stayed in his shoe box in the van during the crossing and appeared fine as we drove off and headed towards Richard's parents, arriving dead on 7pm. I was made to feel very welcome and was fed an excellent meal of cold ham and vegetables before being sent to bed as I was obviously fading rapidly.

I think I was still in shock, because apart from driving on the left, I hadn't really realised that I had left Belgium, everything seemed to be happening in a dream.

And that was a year ago exactly.

After an excellent night's sleep I woke up and burst into tears. I knew where I was, and that I was to be driven up to be with Richard that day, but my heart wasn't ready. I was already missing my children and my house, not to mention Belgium.

But my house had been sold already, I was just waiting for my share of the sale. There was no going back now.

All that happened a year ago today.

Happy anniversary.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Mad as a Mad March Hare.

So much has happened since I last wandered in this direction that I haven't even had time to even think about what has actually happened.

Starting from the end, I couldn't blog to a sudden and mad dash at decorating.

Before that, though....

I have become a qualified First Aider.

Yes. Me.

I can help save your life - unless you do something that I didn't learn about. Then you are pretty well stuffed. Well, I almost killed the dummy when attempting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I forgot to hold the dummy's nose as it was covered in a cloth which made me forget that while I was blowing into it's mouth like a trumpet player, all the air was coming out through it's nose. I thought it felt rather drafty, but I didn't put it down to my own breath coming out of the dummy's nose. I know now and have the certificate to prove it.

Oh yes. I'm qualified. For 3 years, too.

So I did that. I also finished my Assertiveness Course and no longer swear too much at people to get what I want. Something tells me that I should re-take the course. I then went on to take a photography course but ended up stopping due to some decorating that badly needed doing.

My parents informed me of their visit at the beginning of March. All hell broke out, as did the sun. But that's for another day.

Maybe tomorrow.

But I can attempt to save your life in the meantime.

Just don't die.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Waves of homesickness.

As I sat having my hair cut last Saturday I reached to unwrap the biscuit given to me with my coffee. It was a speculoos. Just a silly biscuit made me think of the days when I bought the very same biscuits for my children for their packed lunches - not a touch on the ones bought from Dandoy, but then, you wouldn't buy biscuits from that shop for your child's lunch box. And as I sat there with my hair wrapped in tin foil I started to think about home.

I miss américain, frites, salade, buckets of mussels, patisseries, all those beers, the shops, the culture, the diversity of Brussels with its ethnic markets, hidden parks, multi-cultural population and numerous attractions that take place in the summer - many of which are free.

I miss my old home with the large garden and pond. My newts will be out and playing now but I have a feeling that the new owners of the house may have filled the pond in. I never want to find out. I miss playing Swingball in the garden against one of the children. That can easily be remedied, obviously. I carefully brought over the four Swingball bats that I have accumulated over the years and the spare tennis ball attached to the rope....but forgot the pole.

I miss my hairdresser who I have known ever since I was pregnant with Todd. We became good friends and I trusted her to do whatever she wanted to my hair. 99% of the time I was extremely pleased. The hairdresser that I have found in Crewe is pretty good too, but it costs more to have my hair cut and coloured here than in Belgium. I need to find somewhere else, but as most women will tell you, finding a good hairdresser whom you trust completely is no easy feat, and once you find that person, you don't like leaving them. Trial and gross error.

It is at this time of year that I used to watch the changes to my garden: snowdrops, wild daffodils, anemones, crocuses all popping up underneath the hedge while some yellow flower would start to blossom around the pond. Little things like that often catch me off-guard and my mind starts wondering back to the years spent in that house.

And of course, above all, I miss my children. Coralie hasn't had much luck lately - in December, a hoodie smashed her car window when she was at a set of red lights and stole her handbag. Last week, as she was looking for a parking spot, somebody smashed into her car, moving it so far that she smashed into another car. Both she and her boyfriend only suffered minor shock and slight whiplash. The idiot driver who caused the accident wasn't insured and so it has all been settled without involving insurance companies and much in Coralie's favour.

Tatiana had problems with the first job that she took on and was fairly relieved when she didn't pass her trial period, but she missed having me around to talk to for advice. We managed via emails and phone calls and she is much happier in her new job, although whenever something crops up, I am the first person she contacts. She is a big worrier. I can't think where she gets that from.

Apparently Todd is going to study law. I can't get in touch with him - he doesn't read his emails and if he reads his Facebook messages, he never replies - and his phone is always switched off. I think he is angry that I left Belgium as he once said that "I have it easy", but I have no idea what he meant by that as not only is it far from the truth, but he did decide to live with his dad. I'm going to let him grow up and see what he wants then. No point in pressuring the boy.

When in Belgium, I used to crave fish and chips. Why? The chips are vile and the fish is so greasy. But that was that I used to miss. I left England before shops stayed open late or were open on Sundays, but even so, that never really affected me. I remember that pubs used to be better than they are now - or maybe I saw everything so much more differently then than I do now. Most likely.

It's only normal to miss things that I took for granted for 28 years, and I expect these pangs will happen every now and then. But I'm going to make a damn good attempt at enjoying living here.

You only live once.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

It came, it went and a new year started.

Now that Christmas is out of the way despite the odd decoration still hanging up - I mean, how lazy do you have to be not to have taken down your Christmas kitsch by 7 February, I can report on the weird goings on in this corner of the world.

We spent Christmas at Richard's parents, down in Ashford, Kent. I missed the children enormously but was able to speak to all but one whose phone was turned off. Some things simply don't change. I was very well looked after and spoilt with presents from Richard and his family, and my daughters sent me a present too which was lovely. Richard took me to look at my old school but I didn't recognise a thing - I have obviously blotted out that part of my life as I hated it so much. It was rather unnerving not to be able to remember a place that housed me for seven years of my life and I was glad to leave the spot.

We celebrated the new year in Crewe at home and went to the front door at midnight expecting to see people wishing each other a happy new year but the road was empty. Plenty of fireworks, but not a soul in sight. This is really bizarre as I am used to people - and not necessarily friends, but people at the end of the road where I used to live, yet had never met before - getting together passing a bottle of champagne around and wishing one another all the best.

Mmmmm. The Christmas decorations were incredibly tacky and so kitsch that Crewe gets 10/10 for that, but the new year was a quiet and lonely affair spent with Richard and too much TV. I don't think that we went to bed until 4am. God knows what we were watching.

Then January happened. I started an Assertiveness Course which basically teaches us how to get around difficult situations without killing anyone. I think I must be doing something wrong as each time I try to avoid an argument, Richard asks me why I'm talking to him so strangely. At least it gets me out of the house for a couple of hours a week.

Last week I started doing voluntary work ("That won't bring in any money," said my Dad, "Well, no, that's why it's called voluntary work - and apparently it looks good on your CV," I replied. I don't seem to be able to do any good in his eyes - it's a good job I'm so far away from him) at Eagle Bridge, working with the Wishing Well Project. I'm helping in the IT Suite (stop laughing, this is serious), meeting and greeting people who use the computers and helping out when I can. Richard has started too, although on a different day.

Jobs aren't pouring in, but the hunt goes on. I gave in to my damp problem and bought a dehumidifier - thanks to everyone who gave advice. It does help enormously. The dining room still remains to be painted which will be a task as there is quite a bit of furniture in there as well as plenty of full boxes. And book shelves - where on earth am I going to put all my books? There really isn't the space in this house.

The girls are already talking about visiting again but I have said to wait until the weather gets warmer as it's nicer to visit the surrounding villages then. I can't believe that I have been living here for almost a year now. Much as I like Crewe and it's surroundings, I'm still finding it hard to adjust to the culture. If they have Christmas markets here, they don't sell gluhwein as it is against the law to drink on the streets. Most holidays are held on Mondays and are called Bank Holidays. If you have savings and no job, then this is definitely NOT the country to move to. You will be expected to live off those savings and that really and truly upsets me. And I'm leaving it at that.

Hopefully something of interest will happen before I next post because even I am getting bored. Perhaps I'll find a job!